Dozens of employees of PRACS Institute, the medical research company with clinical testing and laboratories in East Grand Forks and Fargo, were told Wednesday they soon would be laid off.
That didn't sit well with the founder of PRACS, Dr. James Carlson, who sat in J.T. Cigarro's in Fargo commiserating with employees there, he said.
PRACS was formed by Carlson in 1983 in Fargo. Several years ago, it became part of Cetero Research in North Carolina in a merger of several similar firms. Carlson said he sold PRACS three years ago to KRG, a Denver investment firm, after requiring that KRG also buy two of PRACS main competitors.
"I'm very strongly committed to my staff," he said Wednesday. "So, I'm disappointed. I'm pissed as hell."
"I'm a shareholder and a board member of Cetero, and I have not been informed by anyone in management or the holding company of any of this."
Mike Hellman, a manager at the East Grand Forks office, said he could not comment on the layoffs, referring questions about it to Cetero's North Carolina office.
Hellman said 35 people work full time in the 250-bed East Grand Forks facility, while 60 to 80 work part time. The East Grand Forks facility opened in 2000.
The Fargo PRACS has more than 600 beds and dozens of employees, but he's not certain yet how many have been given pink slips, Carlson said. It appears not all the operations in Fargo will be closed, Carlson said.
PRACS pays people to take part in medical trials as part of research on new drugs.
He built a company that had high ethical and research standards that provided drug companies good work at a fair price, Carlson said.
Troy McCall, CEO of PRACS corporate owner, KRG, referred the Herald to Cetero's spokeswoman, who could not be reached Wednesday evening.
Carlson said when he learned from employees about the layoff announcements Wednesday, he called McCall to criticize the move.
"So, I'm meeting with staff people who just got fired, sitting here in the bar, holding hands, doing what I can," Carlson said. He heard from employees that at least 25 to 35 will be laid off by May 15 in Fargo, and a lab closed. Carlson said it appears the 30 or so employees in East Grand Forks will be laid off, and the place will be closed, too, Carlson said.
McCall was named CEO just two months ago. Carlson said.
"He didn't know there were problems when he was hired."
But Carlson declined to talk about what the problems might be.
"They are going to blame the economy, but that is (expletive)," he said.
Because of not only employees, but hundreds of patient/clients each year who get paid to take part in tests, "it will definitely have a negative impact on East Grand Forks," Carlson said.